|Do you need tutorial? Dial India
INDIAWEST[ THURSDAY, MARCH 31, 2005 04:14:16 PM ]
FREMONT, California: It's almost 5 o'clock on a Tuesday evening, and in the Salem, Oregon, home of Linda Blevins, her 10-year-old son, Justin Fisk, is ready to begin his math lesson in a few minutes.
The youngster sits at his computer staring at the screen, his headphones on, waiting to hear the familiar, accented "hello Justin" opener. At precisely 5 pm, he hears it, from half a world away.
Over the next one hour, Justin will sit glued to his computer, while his tutor, Miss Sabrina, will sit in front of hers, in her cubicle in Kochi, Kerala, navigating her young charge through the nuts and bolts of fractions, multiplications and divisions.
Justin is one of 180 students currently enrolled in the Fremont-based Growing Stars, Inc., online tutorial program for American students in grades three to 12.
It is the brainchild of co-founder Kerala-born software engineer Biju Mathew.
"When my family and I were in India, my children had private tutoring, and it helped them a lot," Mathew told India-West, as he explained how the program works and why he started it.
When he immigrated to the US with his family five years ago, Mathew began working as a software engineer for a startup company in the San Francisco Bay Area, a job that demanded a lot of his time...
...He just didn't have enough time to help his two older children, now 14 and 10, with their lessons.
Mathew said that more than once he found himself wishing he could import the tutors who had helped his children while they were living in India.
Tutoring programs offered by such outfits as the Sylvan Learning Center were either too unaffordable, or too impersonal, or both. The one he sent his son to did not get the desired results, he said.
"He needed personal attention," Mathew said. "He didn't get it there."
That's when the idea of starting an online tutoring service took root so other parents would not have to face what he did.
In November 2002, Mathew and his New Jersey-based friend, Saji Philip, began Growing Stars, with Philip investing USD 500,000 as seed money.
Mathew hired a team of engineers in India to develop, under his guidance, an online tutoring program in math and science.
When Growing Stars officially began in January 2004, there were three students on the rolls. Since then, both the student and teacher base has grown.
Today, Sabrina is one of 18 highly-qualified teachers on the payroll of Growing Stars's subsidiary in Kochi. Almost all of them have a master's degree in math or science, and many of them also have a degree in education.
They were all given accent and cultural training before they were allowed to begin tutoring, Mathew said.
"We warn our teachers to have expectations that are different from what they could expect from Indian students," Mathew added.
..."they might hear a student calling them by their first name. We prepare them for that in the cultural training program."
For a fee of USD 20 an hour, and between the hours of 4 pm and 9 pm Pacific time, tutoring is provided to students from grades three to 12.
Justin has enrolled in an eight-week tutoring program, which will cost his mother USD 230. That includes the headphone set and a white board.
Justin has bonded well with Sabrina, Blevins told India-West. "He really likes her. And he's doing better in school."
Like all the other students in the program, Justin has access to a scan button that allows him to scan in his homework and ship it off to his tutor.
"But she will not do it for him," Mathew was quick to point out. "She will just help him understand what he must do."
Sanjeev Manocha, MBA
Real Estate Sales Representative
Accredited Buyer Representative (ABR)
Re/Max West Realty Inc, Brokerage
96, Rexdale Blvd., Toronto
Last edited by: sanjeevm on 31-03-05 11:11:35